A Solitary Life

There is a poem that has been printed and read for years at Christmas time.  I have often read it but until this year I never really questioned who wrote it or why.  Writing this month about my memories of past Christmas times I thought of this poem and decided to find out who wrote it.

I discovered it was part of a sermon given by Dr. James Allan Francis, a Baptist minister born in Canada.  He gave the sermon on July 11, 1926 speaking to the Baptist Young People’s  Union.  The message was titled, “Arise Sir Knight.”  Transcribed by a friend Dr. Francis published it in a collection of his sermons.

Later minor changes were made to the original words and it has become a popular poem used throughout the church, but especially at Christmas time.

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Here is a man who was born in an obscure village as the child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in another obscure village.

He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never owned a home.

He never had a family.

He never went to college.

He never put his foot inside a big city.

He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.

He had no credentials but himself.

He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of his divine manhood.

While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him.

His friends ran away.

One of them denied him.

Another betrayed him.

He was turned over to his enemies.

He went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed upon the cross between two thieves.

His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he was dying, and that was his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today he is the center of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as powerfully as has this one solitary life.

 

 

Christmas Past – Maligayang Pasko

Well it seems I am on a roll – memories of Christmas past just continue to occupy my mind – especially at bedtime.  Maybe it’s just that I am getting old.  Maybe it’s spending this Christmas in a new home in a new state far from what was familiar.

The memories are for the most part happy ones although the last post I made did include one Christmas that was sad and lonely.

Christmas Past – Laughing Through the Tears

Still, I’m thankful that the happy times far outweigh the sad ones.

For a girl growing up in the Midwest Christmas has always meant:

  • Christmas trees and decorations

 

  • Caroling

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  • cold temps

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  • sometimes snow

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But I will never forget the one Christmas I spent without all the trees and decorations, without caroling, no cold temps and certainly no chance of snow.

I spent Christmas of 1991 at the beach on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

My husband and I had gone to the Philippines with our youngest daughter to teach in a Bible school.  While there we also spoke and often gave classes to the ministerial staff at local churches.  Our daughter began a Kids Klub with the local neighbor hood children.

I wrote about her experience there in:

The Piped Piper of Iloilo City

It never really felt like Christmas there.  The temperature was much too warm.  It was  lonely thousands of miles from our family.  There were few bright lights.  In the gated community where many of the other missionaries lived there were trees and lights.  But in our neighborhood no one could afford such luxuries.  Many of our neighbors did not even have electricity for any lights.  Most struggled to provide food for their families and there would be few, if any, presents and certainly no Christmas tree.

There were decorations in the stores downtown, but none like we were used to.  The mall downtown had some beautiful ones made from bamboo.

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The only Christmas decoration we had was a nativity set we found at a local store.  It was amazing to us that even in the Philippines, the nativity set portrayed Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as white.  Clearly Jesus would have been dark-skinned like those from the Middle East but somehow we have made Him into an image totally foreign to what He would have been.

We held a birthday party for Jesus with the kids in the neighborhood.  We had a birthday cake, played games and had so much fun with the kids.  It was a joy to also share with them the story of the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas day we shared a picnic at the beach with another missionary couple from Norway.  Like us, it seemed strange to have no snow or cold temperatures.  As you can see, from the pictures, we really dressed up for the day.  NOT!

As I look at these pictures today I wonder where those children are now.  How many had the privilege of completing school?  How many even survived to adulthood?  It is my prayer that we did make a difference in their lives while we were there.

This year as we feel the cold temperatures, I do think how nice it was that year to enjoy sunshine and the ocean.  But I still am glad to be here with my family.  Wherever you are, whatever your Christmas is –

Maligayang Pasko – or Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Mary Know – Do You Know?

There is a popular Christmas song that many love and it gets a lot of air time at the holiday season.  I love it too, especially the line that says “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.”

 

 

But I have to ask myself as I listen to this song, do I know.

In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer makes this statement:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

Another writer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written

Our supreme need is to know God.

But, what do we mean by knowing God?

The Old Testament. The Hebrew root yada [[;d”y],translated “know”/”knowledge, ” appears almost 950 times in the Hebrew Bible. It has a wider sweep than our English word “know, ” including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization.

Thus, biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions ( Micah 6:5 ). To know God is not to struggle philosophically with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

The Biblical use of knowing someone implies a relationship.  In Genesis 4:1 we are told that “Adam knew Eve his wife” meaning he had a physical union with her.  Jesus used the word “know” when He spoke of his relationship with His followers.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me (John 10:14)

The Apostle Peter admonishes Christian to

grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wonder do we truly “know” Him?  Is He really a part of our everyday life or just someone we visit on Sunday morning? Do we really invite Him to be part of our plans as we work, play, shop?  Better yet, do we invite Him to guide us so that we recognize His plans for us?

Do I know about him or do I know him?

For example, I know about President Trump.  I can tell you he is a wealthy man with a beautiful wife.  He is loved by the political right and hated by the political left.  He is from New York and is a real estate billionaire.

But I do not know him.  If I met him on the street he would not have any idea who I was.  I will never be invited to his family Christmas dinner (not that I would want to).  We have no personal knowledge of each other.

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In thinking how do we come to know Jesus, I think of my own relationship with my husband.  When I first met him all I knew was that he was a father trying to raise two teenagers by himself, that he was highly respected by his church family, that he liked to sing.

As we began to spend time together, slowly I learned more about his man.  He was a veteran of the US Air Force, he loved flowers and was a great gardener, he hated stewed tomatoes.  By the time we were married, I could say that I truly knew him.

However, after almost 35 years of marriage, I realize that my knowledge of him on our wedding day was small compared to what I have discovered over these years of marriage.  Today, I think it is correct to say I know him better than anyone else.

So it is with the Lord.  The more time we spend in His word, in prayer, in mediation the more we will know Him.

This Christmas, do you know about Jesus or do you know Him?  What are your plans to know in your knowledge of Him?

 

 

 

 

Christmas Past – Laughing Through the Tears

Recently I posted a blog on my memories of my favorite Christmas gift ever.  After posting that I have found myself awake in the middle of the night thinking of other Christmas memories.  Seems this first post has now led to more.

Christmas Past – My Best Christmas Present Ever

In my second post I shared how my future husband proposed to me on Christmas Day 1968.  We had thirteen wonderful years together and were blessed with two beautiful daughters.

One of the memories that came to me in the middle of the night was a Christmas that was lonely and difficult.  In March of 1982 my husband (whose proposal I wrote about in a previous post) was killed in an accident.

Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

This was the first Christmas my young daughters and I spent without him.  Although it has been 36 years since that Christmas I can close my eyes and still feel the pain, the deep unspeakable sense of being alone.

But along with these sad thoughts comes one that makes me smile.

That year a friend had given my youngest daughter a book for Christmas that brought us some laughs.  Called the “Ugly Joke Book,” it had the usual jokes like:

  • Beauty is only skin deep …but ugly goes all the way to the bone!
  • I was such an ugly kid. When I played in the sandbox the cat kept covering me up.
  • You know you’re ugly when it comes to a group picture and they hand you the camera.

In this day of PC I suppose these jokes would not be appropriate to many.  That Christmas night, seeing the sad faces of my little girls, I was determined to not let their Christmas night end in terrible sadness.  Out came the book.  I had us all get in our pajamas, climb into bed and read the jokes.  Some of the jokes were funny, others not so much.  But I laughed at each one as if it was the funniest thing in the world.  After reading the book and staying up way past their bed time, I laid with them asleep in my arms and thanked God that in the midst of sorrow, if we look for it, we can also find joy.

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We had spent Christmas Eve with our extended family.  We were made so sad because during the entire day no one said anything about our husband/father.  It was as if he had never existed; as if his absence was of no importance to anyone.  Before returning home, I expressed my hurt to my older sister.

I think I made her cry as she explained they had all agreed not to mention his name because they were afraid of causing us pain.  They thought they were doing the kind thing.  Sadly they had not.

So – if you have family or friends who have lost a loved one this year – or really any time in the past – don’t be afraid to mention them.  Say how you miss them.  Share memories you have of them.

God has blessed us and He brought a good man into our lives a few years after this Christmas and my daughters have married and have a family.  Our Christmas this year will not be lonely and we are happy.

But we will always remember this wonderful man that made that Christmas one to remember.  And in the midst of our celebration, our thoughts will remember dear, dear Lonnie Lott.

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Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

Christmas always brings memories of the past as I reflect on all the years that have passed.  I remember:

  • The little wooden ornaments I painted for my little girls that they now hang on their trees.
  • The Christmas plate three of my grandchildren painted for me.
  • The live Christmas tree my husband and I purchased the first year of my marriage and how our son planted that tree in the front yard.  How quickly it grew and how sad it was when we drove by the house years later and saw the new owner had cut it down.

One special Christmas remains in my heart forever – Christmas of 1968.

My boyfriend had just completed basic training at the USMC base in San Diego, California and was coming home on Christmas Eve.  He was traveling home by bus and his parents were going to call me as soon as he let them know he was at the bus station in St. Louis.  They would then swing by and pick me up and we would go to get him.

Lonnie

It was late when the call finally came and I was so excited!  After we picked him up at the bus station we hurried to his home where his eight brothers and sisters were anxiously waiting to see him.

By the time the family reunion was over it was early morning Christmas Day and Lonnie got the keys to the family car to drive me home.  Sitting in the car before I went inside he asked me to marry him.

I said YES!

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Sadly, the wedding would not be for a while as he was headed to Vietnam shortly after the New Year.

The holidays were both happy, but sad.  So good to be together, to celebrate our engagement.  So sad to face the months ahead of separation and danger for him.  Would he survive the war?  Would we really be married?

This Christmas I think of all the service men and women who are far from home protecting our country and of their family – parents, spouses, children — who will have an empty spot at their table.

If you know someone who is serving overseas, send them a card and let them know you are thinking of them.  If you know a family who has a member who will be absent this year at the festivities, give them a call.  Encourage them and share your appreciation of the sacrifice both they and their family member are making for us.

My story had a happy ending.  After 13 months my Marine returned home and we were married.

 

Now That It’s Over

Christmas 2017 is now history.

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The beautiful tree we spent hours decorating is now ready to be taken down and put away for another year if it was an artificial tree, or it soon will join the landfill if we chose a live tree.

christmas tree dead

All the presents that we spent days and weeks searching for in the store or online and then wrapped so carefully are now opened.  The beautiful packaging is probably in the trash cans ready to also go to the landfill.  Some are enjoying their gifts while others are perhaps a little disappointed that Santa did not bring them exactly what they wanted.  Maybe it was the wrong size so a trip to the store to make an exchange is on the agenda this week.

presents unwrapped

All the delicious food that Moms spent hours preparing has long been consumed or is sitting in the refrigerator waiting for leftovers tonight.  The beautiful china has been washed and put away for another year – or the Christmas paper plates are also headed to that landfill.

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Some are savoring precious memories made this year with family and friends.  For them it was a time of great happiness and an almost Christmas-card perfect day.  There were newlyweds spending their first Christmas together.  Grandmas and grandpas were enjoying spending time with grandchildren they do not see the rest of the year.  Brothers and sisters, cousins laughed over board games or their favorite Christmas movie.

Still others are glad it’s over because it was a sad time.  There were family members who were absent at the table this year.  Some were gone because death tragically struck this year.  Others grieve over the divorce that split the family in two.  Some families spent the holiday in the hospital or sitting quietly by the bedside of a loved one who is quickly spending their last days.

But regardless of how this year’s Christmas season turned out – happy or sad, perfect or so imperfect, it is history.

So now what?  Do we just put away the decorations, replace our Christmas CD’s with our favorite music style, close our Bibles to Matthew and Luke and go on with “normal” life.  Did we just “enjoy” the Christmas play at church, the children singing “Away in a Manger”, the classic Christmas carols or the contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know”  Is that all there is?

While we hear the Christmas story every year and it is old and well-known, I think we would be wise to follow Mary’s example as found in Luke’s story of the nativity.  When the shepherds found the baby in the manager and told Mary and Joseph of the message of the angels, Luke tells us that

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

So what do we do now?  Put aside all we have heard this season of the Christmas story and go back to our busy world.  Or, would it not be a good idea to stop now and then as winter turns into spring, then summer, then fall and think about what the Christmas story really means.  God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.  God’s demonstration of His love for us.

My prayer is that you will take time to think about Christmas – the real meaning of Christmas – in the days, weeks, months ahead and let it change how you live in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Waiting For?

As we enter Advent – the season of waiting – I have been reading scriptures that speak of the wait for the Messiah, the one who would save the world, scriptures that speak of our wait for our Lord’s return.   Examining my life I realized I do a lot of waiting – but what am I waiting for?

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Banana curls just like Shirley Temple

First, as a little girl I waited:

  • to learn to read the “big” books.
  • to be able to jump rope
  • for Santa Claus to come
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Don’t you just love the hairstyle?

Then, as a young high school graduate I waited:

  • to find a job
  • to meet “Mr Right” and be married
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Home on leave just before going to Vietnam my Marine asked me to be his wife

When he came along, then I waited:

  • for the day we could say “I do”
  • to have my own home
  • to be a mother
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The major joy of my life – precious gifts from God

After my girls were born I waited:

  • to see them grow up
  • to see them married and with a family
  • to someday be a grandmother
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This grandson, who never met his grandfather, is so much like him

After my husband was killed in an accident, I waited again:

  • wondering if the pain would ever go away
  • wondering how I would raise my girls alone
  • wondering if there could be happiness again for me
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Thankful for this man who brought joy once again to me

When God took my pain (but never the precious memories I will always keep in my heart and treasure), I waited again:

  • for our blended family to become one
  • to grow old with this man
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I lost my beautiful red hair – but now I wear a wig so I’m still a fiery redhead

Then cancer came and I waited:

  • to recover from surgery and aggressive treatment
  • to get my hair back
  • to get past that 10 year mark of survival
  • to reach retirement

I spent so much of my life waiting for things in the “here and now.”  Spending so much effort and hope and time anticipating for my future in this life.

That is certainly not wrong.  God made us to enjoy this life and all of the things I waited for were good and blessings from God – job, family, health.

But as I reflect on the scriptures that speak of waiting, I realize the most important thing I should be anticipating and waiting for are not those things in the “here and now” but the hope of what is to come when the “here and now” is over.

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I can only imagine what this moment will be like

At this Advent season – this time of waiting and hoping – I wait for

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is…1 John 3:1-2

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed….Titus 2:11-13

But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness…2 Peter 3:18

As we celebrate this season of waiting, anticipating – I ask you, what are you waiting for?